In the heart of Corrèze, the pretty city of Brive-la-Gaillarde is the ideal starting point for exploring the region, for a weekend or more. On the menu: villages of character, the impressive decor of an open-air slate quarry, lakes to indulge in the pleasures of swimming and water sports, but also a literary and fun garden, not to mention a prehistoric trip in Dordogne, in Lascaux IV. So many getaway ideas that will appeal to young and old alike!
The Jardins de Colette, fun and literary
11 km north-west of Brive, the Colette Gardens invite us to dive into the world of the famous 20th century novelist, who lived ten years in Varetz, in the Castel-Novel castle, next door.
In the floral park, each of the six thematic gardens was inspired by one of the French regions that marked the existence of Colette, from her native Burgundy to Île-de-France (Paris, in particular), where she will end his life in 1954, passing through Franche-Comté, Brittany, Corrèze and Provence.
While adults get to know the writer better while appreciating the landscaped architecture of the gardens and the variety of species planted, children have fun with the giant games arranged in the park (mikados, croquet, Finnish skittles, etc.) or meet in the playground of the impertinent author of “Claudine à l'école” to play with rubber bands, marbles or skipping rope.
Finally, we engage in the big butterfly maze, a plant maze of 5 m000 in which you have to solve puzzles. By taking a picnic, you can easily stay all day in these pleasant gardens.
Les Pans de Travassac, in the secret of the last slate trees
An astonishing place is hidden 14 km north of Brive: the Pans de Travassac, an open-air slate quarry, particularly impressive with its steep cliffs and vertiginous wells.
The story begins 300 years ago, when seven veins of healthy slate were found here, which will be extracted over the centuries by digging the hill up to 100 m deep. The place could have been abandoned if a slate maker, Jean-François Bugeat, whose family has worked on the quarry since 1802, had not had the good idea to make it a tourist site, in 1997.
Today, during a guided tour, we discover the history of this extraordinary place and the hard and delicate work of slate, which a craftsman demonstrates. He explains in particular how a tile is made in the traditional way, under the dumbfounded eyes of the children. A small museum concludes the visit.
The exploitation, it continues not far from there, where a handful of slate-makers - among the last in France - perpetuate this ancestral know-how which has not changed much since the 17th century. Among their most prestigious projects: that of Mont-Saint-Michel.
Turenne, one of the "most beautiful villages in France"
15 km south of Brive, we find the slates of Travassac on the roofs of the perched village of Turenne, alongside the lauze.
Perched on its rocky outcrop, the imposing medieval castle in ruins still lets guess the presence that it had in the days of its splendor, before the King of France, having bought these lands, decided to destroy it in 1738. It must be said that the fortress embodied a strong symbol: that of the power of the Viscount of Turenne who for centuries had minted money, possessed his own army and challenged the kingdom of France.
Today, there is a rectangular keep dating from the 14th century, of which we can visit the guard room. A flower garden separates it from the César tower (13th century), cylindrical and equipped with battlements. Do not hesitate to take the narrow spiral staircase leading to the top, from which one has a breathtaking view of the surrounding countryside.
On the way down, we will stroll through the pretty flowery alleys of the village, appreciating the architecture of medieval houses and mansions from the 16th and 17th centuries, not to mention the old Capuchin Convent and the church.
To discover the village in a fun way, the tourist office has designed a small booklet intended for children from 7 to 12 years old. Guided tours are also organized, some of them costumed or by torchlight. Something to interest the whole family.
The lakes of the Brive region: all in the water!
In summer, if an irrepressible desire to jump in the water grips you, it is not very difficult to give in: you just have to go to the shores of one of the lakes near Brive. In particular, we can go green at Causse lake (12 km south-west of the city), spread over 84 hectares and surrounded by wooded hills. Its nautical center offers a whole range of activities: windsurfing, canoeing, paddleboarding, rowing, pedalo or even dinghy. In summer, swimming is supervised.
In the opposite direction, 19 km east of Brive, it is also possible to swim in the Coiroux lake, a 24 hectare body of water, particularly appreciated by families, who come to picnic there. You can also rent a stand-up paddle (at Ginkgo-Fildelo, at the Coiroux leisure center). Afterwards, you are free to go climb trees with your family in the neighboring leisure park, Mayaventure.
Finally, on the way back, be sure to stop in the charming village of Aubazine in Correze, where a former 12th century Cistercian abbey stands.
Lascaux IV: prehistoric foray into the Dordogne
Direction, now, the neighboring department, the Dordogne, for an extraordinary journey through time. About 45 minutes west of Brive, the Lascaux IV site opened in Montignac in December 2016.
The large building with futuristic architecture houses the most recent facsimile of the Lascaux cave, the original being closed to the public since 1963. The guided tour begins on the roof, overlooking the Vézère valley, then continues to the interior, where we discover the complete reconstruction of the cave and its rock paintings. We believe it!
Then, tablet in hand, it is solo that we are invited to a playful and interactive exploration of cave art. Children take the opportunity to virtually create their own work of art. You can then watch a 3D film and, why not, experience the virtual tour of the cave with a VR headset (beware of vertigo!). After that, we can go see the gallery of the imagination and the temporary exhibition.
An exciting family outing, both for children and adults. You might as well warn you: we don't see the time passing, in Lascaux IV, so plan a good half-day visit.
Find all the tips, addresses and practical information in the Limousin Routard in bookstores
To prepare for your stay, consult our Limousin online guide
Brive Tourist Office
How to get there and get around?
- By plane: about 1 hour 20 minutes for a Paris-Brive flight with HOP-Air France
- By train: 4:30 a.m. from Paris, 2:20 a.m. from Bordeaux.
- On the spot, to radiate around Brive, the ideal is to rent a car.
- Le Collonges: 3-5 place Winston-Churchill, Brive-la-Gaillarde. This comfortable hotel with a pop decor is located between the Georges-Brassens market and the shopping streets, convenient for going for a walk in the city center. Double room from 91 €. Buffet breakfast at € 9.
- The 4 : 4, rue Majour, Brive-la-Gaillarde. In the heart of Brive, in fine weather, it is on the terrace that you can taste the chef's delicate cuisine, which combines perfectly local products, spices and herbs. A real taste experience! Mains: approx € 22.
- The Comptoir Saint-Sernin : 21, avenue Jean-Jaurès, Brive-la-Gaillarde. In this brasserie with vintage decor, set up in a former hardware store, you can taste hearty local cuisine, including delicious Limousin beef. Main courses from € 16,90.
Where to buy local specialties?
At the Denoix distillery. In Brive, the Denoix family - a predestined name - has been developing walnut-based liqueurs and aperitifs since 1839, in particular walnut water (Suprême Denoix), which combines green walnut juice aged for five years in oak barrels, armagnac and sugar syrup cooked over a wood fire. A unique know-how that we discover during free or guided tours (in summer), followed by a free tasting. If not tasting, children will be able to smell the plants, seeds and bark used to flavor alcohol, and will surely be curious to see the old still and the copper cauldrons. Note that the Denoix family also sells violet mustard from Brive, made from grape must.
Practical information on the places mentioned
The Gardens of Colette. Open from April to November, daily in July and August. Prices (excluding entertainment): adults: € 8 aged 18: € 6,50 aged 6: € 5 aged 3: free.
Les Pans de Travassac. Open daily in July-August, Sundays and public holidays in May, June, September and October. Guided tours every half hour. Adult: € 8,20, child: € 5,20, - 8 years old: free.
Turenne Castle. Adult: € 3,40, - 10 years old: free.
Cave of Lascaux IV (International Center for Cave Art). Open every day in August, from 8 am to 21:30 pm Adults: € 17, children (5 to 12): € 11, under 5: free.